When the Stars signed Sheldon Souray early in free agency it wasn't met with very much fanfare. It was met with more of a shoulder shrug and a "we'll see". It was met with the expected reaction after two injury plagued seasons that saw Souray fighting with Edmonton's management over the handling of his shoulder injury (among other ailments). But, when Souray signed with the Oilers he was met with much fanfare. In Souray's three seasons with Montreal after the lockout he scored 53 goals and assisted on 83 for a total of 136 points.
After signing a 5 year 27 million dollar with the Edmonton Oilers for the 2007-08 season Souray played in 26 games while producing at similar levels to his career averages. The following season Souray was fantastic again with 23 goals in 81 games before the wheels finally fully shot off for the 2009-10 season leading to his banishment to the AHL.
Souray, since the lockout, has been an incredibly valuable defenseman when healthy. How did he get from scoring copious amounts of goals from the point in the NHL to being released by the worst team in hockey with one year remaining on his contract, and what can Stars fans expect from Souray in the 2011-12 season? Follow the jump to find out.
If I had to describe Sheldon Souray I think one phrase/name would come to mind: Studdly Wonderbomb. He's a sharp dressing defenseman with a bomb from the point. He hasn't been a real defensive force since before the lockout, but based on his Zone Starts from 2007-present his coaches didn't seem to avoid putting him in defensive situations until the 2009-10 season. Offense is his calling card, and four times over his last six seasons Souray has put up an Offensive GVT rivaling or besting most Top Six forwards in the NHL:
|Sheldon Souray since 2004|
(He also fights. Click for proof )
If healthy, he offers a compelling skill set which should make a big impact on the 2011-12 Stars, but his Oilers career has to give you some pause. Souray is now a 35 year old defenseman who didn't exactly dominate the AHL during his minor league stint, and injuries are what led Souray on a path toward the AHL. They also kept his AHL production down.
During his first season with the Oilers Souray needed shoulder surgery. According to conflicting reports Souray appears to have been pressured to play through the injury which got progressively worse, and ultimately began the deterioration of the relationship between player and team. A public feud ensued which ended with neither party looking particularly pretty. During the 2010 season Souray both broke his hand and suffered a concussion. The Oilers ended up sending Souray, on loan, to the Hershey Bears of the AHL for the 2010-11 season. The Oilers ran Souray through waivers and re-entry waivers during the 2011 season, but no one placed a claim on him either time.
The 2011 season afforded Souray a chance to redeem himself in the AHL, but unfortunately he was still unable to stay healthy. He broke his hand early on in the season, and in December he sprained his knee. He comes into the 2011-12 season looking to prove he still has some traction on his tires. On the 21st he discussed his situation with Dave Stubbs of the Montreal Gazette and had an introspective tone:
"(It) wasn’t meant to be, for some reason. That’s life. The Oilers didn’t make it any easier, and maybe I didn’t make it easy on them. We all have to take responsibility for that, but I’ve ended up in the place I wanted to be.”
He has to put on a good face at this point in his career, but that doesn't sound like the statement of a lockerroom cancer. The entire tone of the article is that of a man hungry for a second chance who feels as if he has a lot to prove. What should Stars fans reasonably expect from Mr. Wonderbomb this season though? The days of 15-20 goal seasons are probably over, unfortunately. Hockey Prospectus' VUKOTA projection system (based on their GVT system) has a modest projection for Souray of:
|Sheldon Souray since 2004|
With a clean bill of health you could be looking at a 4 GVT defenseman for the meager NHL cost of a mil and a half. That projection is just a baseline though. He is most valuable as a powerplay machine, but powerplay ice time can't be reasonably predicted. The catch with Souray is that if he isn't scoring he isn't going to be effective for the Stars most likely. He will be most effective if he begins most of his shifts in the offensive zone, but if he isn't scoring he isn't going to start in the offensive zone as much. Chicken, meet egg. A strong start is as important for Souray as any player on the roster as it will help stabilize and establish his ice time.
If healthy there is little reason that Souray can't be a very nice bargain for the Stars, but as you may have noticed the operative phrase I've used over and over is "If healthy". He needs to stay healthy to give the Stars some value, and if he does the Stars will have themselves a nice second pairing defenseman at a very affordable rate.